I taught logic and debate for years. I taught my students how to argue rationally and not fall into the long list of fallacies. Most of my teaching was based on based on the Classical philosophical traditions. The old Catholic educational systems taught Logic to their pupils both in high school and in university. Some still do.
Here is a brief description of some of the elements of Logic from a simple presentation on a website. “Logic investigates and classifies the structure of statements and arguments, both through the study of formal systems of inference and through the study of arguments in natural language. It deals only with propositions (declarative sentences, used to make an assertion, as opposed to questions, commands or sentences expressing wishes) that are capable of being true and false. It is not concerned with the psychological processes connected with thought, or with emotions, images and the like. It covers core topics such as the study of fallacies and paradoxes, as well as specialized analysis of reasoning using probability and arguments involving causality and argumentation theory.”
The vast majority of Gen Xers and MIllennials have never taken a course in Logic. The vast majority of people writing or presenting websites using multi-media have not studied Logic.
Therefore, we are in a time where many articles, both in the main line news on Catholic television and on websites contain faulty thinking.
This includes well-meaning people who either only look at one side of arguments, or fall into emotional presentations of serious subjects.
What is happening is that the Church is being divided by sloppy thinking. In all times of crises, rational discourse is absolutely essential in maintaining balance.
The Church is in crisis as we have known for a long time. Thankfully, some of these points of crisis are coming to a head. However, it does not help Tradition or Revelation to fall into emotional responses.
Emotional responses are caused by the lack of logic and by fear. And, one other reason I shall note below.
Fear creates an atmosphere of distrust. Perhaps, in some cases, as we have seen lately, this lack of trust is justified. However, fear also creates faulty thinking. People do not understand cause and effect, or ad hominem, or ad populum fallacies, among the long list of false thinking potholes.
A good journalist never engages in personal attacks, but sticks to ideas. A good journalist does not colour arguments with bombastic words and artwork. Long ago, Marshall McLuhan coined the phrase “The media is the message.” Sadly, this is to true today.
There are few public commentators I can recommend, as many popular Catholic ones have fallen into psychological and symbolic language or graphics which cloud logical thinking.
The third reason why this is happening is dysfunctional backgrounds of people who are in the media. If a person has experienced serious sin in their lives, they most likely need healing. Part of healing is the re-discovery of objectivity. All the saints are and were on earth objective in their thinking. Hence, the great Doctors of the Church, the Early Church Fathers, the commentators from the Councils, the past wonderful theologians and philosophers, such as Augustine, Anselm, Aquinas, Bellarmine, Liguori, and so on, were all trained in the study of Logic. By the way, so were all the creators and signers of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the USA and those countries which copied these truths. However, interpretations have deviated from Logic.
One reason why there are no true theologians and philosophers today of the caliber the Church saw in the past is the lack of Classical training and the lack of a background in Logic.
Dysfunctional families create dysfunctional children. Dysfunctional education systems create dysfunctional children. Those Catholics who cling to the way things have been taught in the past 40 years are doomed to create even one more generation of dysfunctional thinkers.
When a person is subjective about a topic, that person cannot report, or write on it clearly. The honest approach for most journalists who fall into this category is to step back and stop writing or presenting ideas which are clouded by their own lack of objectivity. This is a sign of true humility.
Even more severe is the fact that the readers and listeners and watchers do not see the faulty thinking, as they, too, have not been taught logic.
Rational thinking is one area where we are like God. We were made in the image and likeness of God, which means we have an immortal soul and the ability to choose between good and evil. This gift is in our free will, as God is free.
The lack of objectivity is missed by the vast majority of readers who only read one side of any argument or presentation. This takes time, time to find out the FACTS and not merely the emotional reaction. It takes time to find Truth today–a lot of time.
Fear and dysfunctional thinking need to be combatted by two old Catholic ideals–one, the purgation of the body and the intellect; and two, mortification. You may wonder how mortification heals.
When one enters into a regime of penance, God blesses one with insights into one’s own way of thinking and acting. One learns through the Holy Spirit to react immediately to sin in one’s life and to repent immediately.
Healing of sin takes time and humility. Purgation of body and soul mean that a person must be honest about one’s self. St. Augustine tells us in the Confessions about his search for Truth. Perhaps, more than any other of the great thinkers of our Church, he is the one to show us the necessity of seeking self-knowledge. St. Alphonsus Liguori follows in his way, as do some others.
Self-knowledge is the beginning of humility, the saints tell us.
Sadly, too many people in the Church today lack humility and the response to God, which is mortification of the senses and purgation of the intellect and imagination. When we sin mortally, or even have a habit of venial sin, our minds are clouded. Only the Holy Spirit can change faulty thinking and faulty emotional responses. Mortal sin damages not only the immortal soul, separating us from God’s life, but also from ourselves, and from other people. Healing of the results of mortal sin in one’s life may take time, even years, perhaps, decades. Those who have had abortions, repented, had the excommunication lifted know how long the healing of serious sin can take. The same is true for those who have engaged in fornication, or adultery, or same-sex sins, or masturbation, or stealing, or compulsive lying.
There are many reasons why thousands of young men joined St. Benedict’s new order so long ago. One reason was the collapse of Western Civilisation as known then in the form known as the Roman Empire, which had decayed. The other was the awareness of personal sin and personal imperfection owing to, partly, the chaos of those times.
There are reasons why deep prayer, meditation and contemplation are necessary for clear thinking today. No one in the public sphere who has not allowed the Holy Spirit to heal their minds, souls, imaginations, should be presenting information. No one who has not studied Logic should be presenting information.
The lack of objectivity is a sign of the decay of the West.
Sadly, I do not think we shall ever go back to the times of excellent debate and rational discourse. Sin clouds the mind and harms the soul to the point where only great saints, such as Augustine, will able to bring us back to those times of clear thinking. Like the leadership crisis in the Church, there is a saint crisis.
Christ told us what to do. “Be perfect, even as your heavenly Father is perfect.” There is no other way to change society or even to present news and commentary, which is one reason I stopped my blog in 2015. I realised that more silence brings more wisdom and healing. Pray for great saints. Pray for the healing of those who are attempting to be saints. Pray for saintly leaders, who know how to think and present us with rational discourse.
JMJ, Pray for us.
God is good,